The rise of the Arizona women’s basketball program has been something to note in the Pac-12 conference and national rankings. It all starts with head coach Adia Barnes. Through her first four seasons as head coach, Barnes has won 68 games, the most of any Arizona coach in program history in their first four seasons.
Barnes is a former WNBA Champion (Seattle Storm, 2004).
Since 2016, Barnes has turned the Arizona program around and now the Wildcats are a familiar team each week in the AP Poll Top-25 Rankings and a common foe deep in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Last season, while the scores might not show it, the Ducks had some tough games against the Wildcats in terms of aggression and a tough style to defend, beginning with point guard Aari McDonald.
Now, the No. 10 Ducks (9-2, 7-2 Pac-12 play) will have their first test against the No. 11 Wildcats (8-2, 6-2 Pac-12 play) down in the desert on national television.
Here’s a game preview of the matchup:
The Wildcats received the best news when Aari McDonald decided to forgo the 2020 WNBA Draft and return to Tucson for her senior season. It has paid off. The 5’6” lightning quick point guard is currently averaging 18.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. She also has 26 total steals so far this season.
McDonald’s “go-to” is junior forward Cate Reese, who is currently averaging 12.2 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
McDonald and Reese combined for 33 points in Arizona’s loss to the Washington State Cougars last Sunday.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Last season, Oregon’s Minyon Moore had the task of guarding McDonald. This season, the job will likely be in the hands of freshman Te-Hina Paopao or junior Taylor Chavez.
Down low, the matchup on Reese will likely be against Erin Boley or Nyara Sabally. Sabally is doing her part on the defensive end with Sedona Prince still out with a lingering ankle injury. She is averaging 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while also totaling 13 blocks this season.
This should be a good one!
*Reminder: This is the only game of the weekend for Oregon. The Ducks and Arizona State Sun Devils game originally scheduled for Sunday has been postponed due to COVID-related concerns in the ASU program.
HOW TO WATCH:
WHO: No. 11 Oregon Ducks vs. No. 11 Arizona Wildcats
WHEN: Thursday, January 14 at 4 p.m. (PT)
WHERE: McKale Memorial Center | Tucson, Arizona
RADIO: Oregon Sports Network